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biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.08.31.505985


Anosmia was identified as a hallmark of COVID-19 early in the pandemic, however, with the emergence of variants of concern, the clinical profile induced by SARS-CoV-2 infection has changed, with anosmia being less frequent. Several studies have focused on the neuropathogenesis of the original SARS-CoV-2, but little is known about the neuropathological potential of the variants. Here, we assessed the clinical, olfactory and inflammatory conditions of golden hamsters infected with the original SARS-CoV-2, its ORF7-deleted mutant, and three variants: Gamma, Delta and Omicron/BA.1. We show that infected animals developed a variant-dependent clinical disease, and that the ORF7 of SARS-CoV-2 contribute to causing olfactory disturbances. Conversely, all SARS-CoV-2 variants were found to be neuroinvasive, regardless of the clinical presentation they induce. With newly-generated nanoluciferase-expressing SARS-CoV-2, we validated the olfactory pathway as a main entry point towards the brain, confirming that neuroinvasion and anosmia are independent phenomena upon SARS-CoV-2 infection.

researchsquare; 2022.


Bat sarbecovirus BANAL-236 is highly related to SARS-CoV-2 and infects human cells, albeit lacking the furin cleavage site in its spike protein. To inform on the origin of SARS-CoV-2, we evaluated the clinical, epidemiological and evolutionary consequences of a potential BANAL-236 spillover into humans using animal models. The virus replicates efficiently and pauci-symptomatically in humanized mice and in macaques, where its tropism is enteric, strongly differing from that of SARS-CoV-2. BANAL-236 infection leads to protection against superinfection by a more virulent strain like Wuhan SARS-CoV-2. Yet we found no evidence of antibodies recognizing bat sarbecoviruses in populations highly exposed to bats, indicating that such infections, if they occur, are rare. Six passages in mice or in human intestinal cells, mimicking putative early spillover events, selected adaptive mutations without appearance of a furin cleavage site and not change in virulence. We thus conclude that the hypothesis of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic being preceded by silent circulation in humans of BANAL-236-like strains leading to the acquisition of a furin cleavage site is unlikely. Our studies suggest that a specific search for a furin cleavage site in sarbecoviruses in the wild should be pursued to understand the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemics.

researchsquare; 2022.


Recombination is a crucial process in the evolution of many organisms. Although the evolutionary reasons behind its occurrence in RNA viruses are debated, this phenomenon has been associated with major epidemiological events such as virus host range expansion, antigenic shift or variation in virulence 1,2, and this process occurs frequently in positive strand RNA viruses such as coronaviruses. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has been associated with the repeated emergence of variants of concern presenting increased transmissibility, severity or immune escape 3. The recent extensive circulation of Delta worldwide and its subsequent replacement by viruses of the Omicron lineage 4 (BA.1 then BA.2), have created conditions for genetic exchanges between viruses with both genetic diversity and phenotypic specificities 5-7. Here we report the identification and in vitro and in vivo characterization of a Delta-Omicron recombinant in Europe. This recombinant exhibits immune escape properties similar to Omicron, while its behavior in mice expressing the human ACE2 receptor is more similar to Delta. This recombinant provides a unique and natural opportunity to better understand the genotype to phenotype links in SARS-CoV-2.

researchsquare; 2021.


The animal reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 is unknown despite reports of various SARS-CoV-2-related viruses in Asian Rhinolophus bats, including the closest virus from R. affinis, RaTG13. Several studies have suggested the involvement of pangolin coronaviruses in SARS-CoV-2 emergence. SARS-CoV-2 presents a mosaic genome, to which different progenitors contribute. The spike sequence determines the binding affinity and accessibility of its receptor-binding domain (RBD) to the cellular angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor and is responsible for host range. SARS-CoV-2 progenitor bat viruses genetically close to SARS-CoV-2 and able to enter human cells through a human ACE2 pathway have not yet been identified, though they would be key in understanding the origin of the epidemics. Here we show that such viruses indeed circulate in cave bats living in the limestone karstic terrain in North Laos, within the Indochinese peninsula. We found that the RBDs of these viruses differ from that of SARS-CoV-2 by only one or two residues, bind as efficiently to the hACE2 protein as the SARS-CoV-2 Wuhan strain isolated in early human cases, and mediate hACE2-dependent entry into human cells, which is inhibited by antibodies neutralizing SARS-CoV-2. None of these bat viruses harbors a furin cleavage site in the spike. Our findings therefore indicate that bat-borne SARS-CoV-2-like viruses potentially infectious for humans circulate in Rhinolophus spp. in the Indochinese peninsula.

medrxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.04.18.20071134


Background: The Oise department in France has been heavily affected by COVID-19 in early 2020. Methods: Between 30 March and 4 April 2020, we conducted a retrospective closed cohort study among pupils, their parents and siblings, as well as teachers and non-teaching staff of a high-school located in Oise. Participants completed a questionnaire that covered history of fever and/or respiratory symptoms since 13 January 2020 and had blood tested for the presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The infection attack rate (IAR) was defined as the proportion of participants with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection based on antibody detection. Blood samples from two blood donor centres collected between 23 and 27 March 2020 in the Oise department were also tested for presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Findings: Of the 661 participants (median age: 37 years), 171 participants had anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The overall IAR was 25.9% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 22.6-29.4), and the infection fatality rate was 0% (one-sided 97.5% CI = 0-2.1). Nine of the ten participants hospitalised since mid-January were in the infected group, giving a hospitalisation rate of 5.3% (95% CI = 2.4-9.8). Anosmia and ageusia had high positive predictive values for SARS-CoV-2 infection (84.7% and 88.1%, respectively). Smokers had a lower IAR compared to non-smokers (7.2% versus 28.0%, P <0.001). The proportion of infected individuals who had no symptoms during the study period was 17.0% (95% CI = 11.2-23.4). The proportion of donors with anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in two nearby blood banks of the Oise department was 3.0% (95% CI = 1.1-6.4). Interpretation: The relatively low IAR observed in an area where SARS-CoV-2 actively circulated weeks before confinement measures indicates that establishing herd immunity will take time, and that lifting these measures in France will be long and complex.